Reflections on a week at New Wine (summer festival)
Another guest post from our new team of guest writers. This time the writer is Niall Blackburn, a worship pastor from Woking in the UK. He writes about his experience as someone under 30 at the UK’s largest Christian festival/conference, New Wine.
As background New Wine is a family of churches in the UK. It also established Christian festival of the same name in 1989. New Wine was established by Anglican clergy, who were influenced by the teaching of the American charismatic pastor John Wimber (father of the Vineyard movement). Many of the UK’s well known worship leaders (Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and others) were originally part of Soul Survivor, a youth festival which grew out of New Wine.
Prior to this summer it had been a long time since I’d attended New Wine, in fact the last time I was there I’d served on team at one of the venues (back in 2010…). Our church has been every year for over 10 years, and we took about 100 people of varying age ranges, and one of the highlights will always be the opportunity to spend time with people you may not normally interact with on a weekly basis at church. I could give a blow-by-blow account of my time at New Wine, but that might make for a tedious read. Instead, I’ve decided to limit myself to five reflections. None of these are designed to be negative, and are all subjective. Some of them reflect the debate amongst our group stirred by the worship and the word!
A place of safety
The camp site was a safe environment, kids roamed free and people were friendly. This also (mostly) applied to the worship, and I would say the preaching. There are three venues, and I tended to avoid the main ‘Arena’ as it felt quite staid. The music was high quality, but the sound felt a little distant at the back, and I felt that it was all very comfortable. Two exceptions to this were Robby Dawkin’s preaching, and Pat Barrett’s worship leading (which were both like Marmite and sparked interesting conversations!). That being said, there were some very powerful moments in there.
Finding a place of connection
Having tried all three ‘main’ venues, I settled in ‘Hungry’. As noted above, I felt like the worship and preaching was comfortable in the Arena (it may have been deeply challenging to others, a benefit of having three options!). Having tried out ‘Impact’, where I mainly didn’t return as there was virtually no leg space in the seats, Hungry was the one that I connected with the most. I thought the speakers were excellent, and balanced biblical teaching with contemporary challenge. The worship was heartfelt and a little messy (though probably not as messy as our weekly church services!).
Pushing comfort zones
Pat Barrett pushed the boat out, and left a fair few people on the shore (apologies for the terrible metaphor). Pat’s worship leading style was the subject of a good deal of discussion the day after he led. I missed the morning session as I was covering for an ill worship leader back home, but I made it for his Q&A seminar, as well as the evening session. The culture that he comes from is one where it is very free, and they will launch into times of singing out, or musical interludes, from the very start. This is not very comfortable if it’s not what you’re used to, and it’s something that I would like to see more of at New Wine. However, from a leading perspective, there was not an attempt to take the congregation on the journey. Launching into it from the start alienated some and left others baffled; others really loved it! It was a reminder for me that we can’t simply transplant culture, we need to develop and set it.
Not leaving the worship totally to the professionals
Apart from Pat Barrett and Lou Fellingham, it was great to see that New Wine brought in various worship leaders from network churches. While these were people who have experience of leading large numbers, it’s a positive thing to see, and I really do hope that opportunities open up for developing younger Worship Leaders and Musicians. One of the things that I liked about Hungry was that the leaders, and musicians, were from similar churches to my own.
What about the absent generation?
New Wine needs young adults to engage with it, and start to input into it going forward. I felt very aware that I was in a particular stage of life, and that those around me were in different stages. I would love to see more young adults engaging in New Wine, not to dismiss or detract from what is already happening, but to draw in a whole age range that just felt absent. The kids’ work is excellent and there were loads of families, but I felt there was a gap, and I wanted people of my own age.
I was the only under 30 from my church attending, the other 18-30 year olds were all serving on a team. It’s great to see people inputting into the kids’ work but it felt like that meant that there was nothing for my age group. A couple of my close friends came for a day and a half to check out New Wine and left not really wanting to go to next year. If we want this to change, it’s not on New Wine to make it better for us, it’s for us to engage, lean in and help make New Wine into something we want to attend and invite people to.
I will be back at New Wine next year, and I hope that at Peterborough we’ll find re-invigoration at the new site. I pray that people will meet with God and encounter His grace, power and love. That we will leave encouraged, equipped, transformed and desperate to see His kingdom come.
We asked Niall to list some of the songs that stood out from his week at New Wine (he was at Week 1) and he listed:
Yes and Amen by Pat Barrett
My Hallelujah by Pat Barrett
The Way (New Horizon) by Pat Barrett
Tremble by Mosaic MSC
You Restore My Soul by New Wine Worship
Niall Blackburn currently works at Christ Church Woking as Worship Pastor. He has studied at the Academy of Contemporary Music and Hillsong International Leadership College, having grown up involved in music from a young age. He has recently completed his Bachelor’s in Theology at King’s College London, and loves a good book, good food, and good company.